Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Pizza Pasta

I'm really into this right now. And I'm pretty sure I'm the first person to ever think of it. Haha.

One day I was thinking about how delicious pizza was, but I was also thinking about how much I shouldn't spend money AND I should eat the food I already have and be grateful and not bratty. I noticed that I had about half a bag of whole wheat rotini pasta in my cabinet. And then I thought why not put all the stuff I would want on a pizza in my pasta and then bake it like a pizza?! And so I did.

I still had to buy a few things from the store, but I felt virtuous because I was using the pasta that I already had. See, how that works? The great things about this is it's so versatile! You really can use any ingredients you would want on a pizza. Onions, peppers, mushrooms, olives, pepperoni, ham, Italian sausage...you know what goes on pizza :) If I was going to use veggies I would probably saute them a bit first unless you want them really crunchy. Obviously, if you use raw meat, cook it first. And I would be cautious in trying non-tomato-based pizza varieties. For instance, barbecue chicken pizza pasta doesn't sound that great.... but you could try it!

For my Pizza Pasta, this round I used rotini pasta, pizza sauce, pepperoni, kalamata olives, oven roasted asparagus, and a blend of mozzarella, Parmesan, and provolone cheeses.

Pizza Pasta
my own variation
Pasta, boiled and drained (I would recommend a shorter, compact pasta)
Pizza sauce
Toppings of your choice

Preheat your oven to 350-400 degrees. Spray a pie plate or cake pan with nonstick spray. When I made this I made enough for 1-2, if you were making a lot more, you would want to use a larger pan or multiple pans.

Boil your pasta according to the directions on the package. After you drain the pasta return it to the pot you boiled it in and put that pot over low heat on your stove. Add your sauce and toppings and thoroughly combine.

Pour your pizza pasta mixture into the plate or pan. Cover with a generous amount of cheese. Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes (more if your pan is larger). Then, if you would like, turn your broiler on and let the cheese get a little golden and toasty.

Serves as many as you would like.

It's even good leftover...maybe even better.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Chocolate (Cream) Pound Cake

I feel so delinquent. I made this cake long before March 20, but I just never posted about it. I haven't posted anything since February 21. :(

Oh well, no sense in lamenting over the past, must move on. So, even though it's April 9, I will proundly post about my March cake for The Cake Slice Bakers. And I will promise to do better with the April cake!

For some crazy, insane reason I decide to try and make this cake low-fat. How stupid of me. I had talked with a coworker about baking with appelsauce instead of butter or oil and I remembered a hummingbird cake that I made with mashed bananas and pineapple and how delicious it was. So, I decided to give it a try with this cake. And I didn't want to buy cream, so I justed used the skim milk I already had on hand.

The results were....fine. Actually kind of good, but it had that distinct, unsatisfying low-fat taste. High on sugar, but low on the oomph that FAT gives. Fat is so delicious. So, I've repented and from now on it will be all butter all the time.

Although I will say that I did feel less guilty eating this; it just also wasn't as fun.

Chocolate (Cream) Pound Cake

Cake Keeper Cakes by Lauren Chattman
6 Tablespoons cocoa powder
¼ cup heavy cream (I used fat-free milk)
1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons flour
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened (I used unsweetened applesauce)
1½ cups sugar
3 eggs (I used egg substitute. gross.)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan and dust with flour.

Sift the cocoa powder into a heatproof bowl. Place the cream in a microwavable bowl and heat for 30-60 seconds until just boiling. Pour the hot cream over the cocoa and stir and mash with a spoon to make a thick paste. Set aside to cool. (I don't have a microwave, so I just heated my milk on the stove).

Combine the flour, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.

Combine the butter and sugar in a large bowl and cream with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl once or twice as necessary. Beat in the cocoa powder paste until smooth.

With the mixer on medium-low speed add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Stir in the vanilla.

Turn the mixer to low speed and add the flour mixture, ½ cup at a time, scraping down the sides after each addition. Add the last addition, mix for 30 seconds on medium speed.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Bake the cake until it is firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 10 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Invert it onto a wire rack and then turn it right side up on the rack to cool completely. Slice and serve.

Store uneaten cake in a cake keeper or wrap and store at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Yes, that is a large slab of butter on my cake....it needed something!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Chocolate Toffee Crunch Cake

I think this could get me kicked out of The Cake Slice Bakers. This month's cake was a Coffee Heath Bar Crunch Cake. It called for espresso powder and Heath candy bars. I love, love, love coffee, but for some reason I do not enjoy coffee flavored desserts. I'd much rather have a cup of strong, black coffee with my dessert, not in my dessert.

SO, I substituted cocoa powder for espresso powder, which of course made a chocolate flavored cake, not a coffee flavored cake. Which, to be honest, I quite enjoyed. It was such a small amount of cocoa powder that it made a very lightly chocolate tasting cake, almost like chocolate milk(!).

Now, as for the Heath bars, I have nothing against Heath bars, but I know of something even better than Heath bars...English Toffee from Trader Joe's. This stuff makes me want to die of happiness. This stuff makes me think it would be worth it to weigh 5,000 pounds if it was due to the fact that I had been gorgingon TJ's English Toffee. God bless the English and their toffee making skills. It also has almonds on it. Swoon.

So, those were the only changes I made. Honest. Oh, and I baked it in an 8-inch round pan, but that was only because I don't have the kind of pan the recipe called for. Oh, and I also added 2 eggs instead of 1 and 1 yolk. But that's it, those are the only changes I made.

And I loved this cake! Very tasty. However, my streusel topping sank mostly to the bottom of my cake, which I don't know if that was to be expected or not ideal, but either way it was still delicious.

I could make this cake again for sure and I also think it would be good as cupcakes. If you made this cake with the espresso powder and didn't like it, I suggest trying my version. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Chocolate Toffee Crunch Cake
Adapted from Cake Keeper Cakes by Lauren Chattman

For the Cake:
1½ cups flour
1 heaping Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder (or instant espresso powder)
1½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 eggs (or 1 egg and 1 egg yolk)
1½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup milk

For the Streusel:
1 cup Trader Joe's English Toffee, chopped (or 4 Heath bars (1.4ounces each), chopped)
2 Tablespoons light brown sugar
2 Tablespoons flour
1 Tablespoon butter, softened

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch round springform pan (I used an 8-inch round pan).

Combine the toffee or Heath bars, brown sugar, flour and butter in a medium mixing bowl. Work the mixture with your fingers until it resembles large crumbs. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Combine the flour, cocoa or espresso powder, baking powder and salt in a medium mixing bowl.

Combine the butter and brown sugar in a large mixing bowl and cream with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs (or egg and egg yolk) and vanilla.

With the mixer on low speed, add a third of the flour mixture and then half the milk, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Repeat, alternating the flour and milk, ending with the flour.

Kind of looks like chocolate milk, right?

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth into an even layer with a spatula. Scatter the streusel onto the batter, distributing it evenly over the cake.
Bake the cake until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 55 to 60 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Release the sides of the pan and use a large spatula to slide the cake from the pan bottom to onto a wire rack. Cool completely, cut into wedges and serve.

Store uneaten cake in a cake keeper or wrap in plastic and store at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Isn't this packaging adorable? This is one of the many reasons I love Trader Joe's!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Italian Salad

Salad (and by "salad" I mean green salad, no fruit or Jell-o concoctions) and I have a strange relationship. Sometimes I love it, sometimes I loathe it. Although I feel that it's not really fair to lump all salads together. Salads, like people, can be very, very, very different.

There's the Classic Salad: this salad consists of lettuce (usually iceberg....shudder), cucumber, carrot, and some mushy, tasteless tomatoes; it is usually accompanied by Ranch or Italian dressing. I'm not a huge fan of this salad.

There are other classics, like Spinach Salad with delicious, crispy bacon; Asian Salad with crispy noodles and miso dressing; Greek Salad with divine olives and feta cheese; Caesar Salad which I adore; Taco Salad which I love when it's homemade.

I personally have a formula for a no-fail delicious salad: lettuce (green leaf, romaine, or red-tip) + fruit (fresh or dried) + nuts + cheese + some sort of vinegar inspired dressing and lots of freshly ground black pepper = 1 fabulous salad. Of course you can add other things, like more veggies, beans, green peas, tortilla strips, big crunchy garlic-y croutons, olives, capers, grilled chicken, I could go on...

And that's the thing about salad, you can be so creative and put whatever sounds good to you! I've often joked that I only like salads that are full of unhealthy stuff - which might be true, but I don't care because I think eating crispy bacon with a plate full of lettuce has got to be healthier than eating crispy bacon all by itself. Or with fluffy, buttery, syrup-drenched pancakes. Right?

This past weekend I was invited to a dinner party and I volunteered to bring a salad. The meal was Italian themed, so I decided to make my own version of an Italian Salad. At my favorite Italian restaurant they have an Italian Chopped Salad that is so good - this one isn't really like that, but it was still pretty yummy.

Start with a head of lettuce, I chose green leaf because it is my favorite. You could also just buy a bag of pre-washed, pre-chopped lettuce and make your life easier. Otherwise, wash and dry your lettuce well and then cut or tear the leaves into small pieces. I discard the stems because I think they're gross to crunch down on. I know others disagree.

Then I added some mozzarella cheese. I think little balls of fresh mozzarella would have been better, but this time I had mozzarella slices.

Then some salami! I cut little discs of salami into strips. Someone at the dinner party said, "this is a carnivore's salad" =)

Next up were olives! Kalamata olives, but you could also use green or black (although black wouldn't add much flavor...).  I sliced my olives in half.

Finally some cherry tomatoes, cut in half and salt & peppered.

And I brought along Balsamic Vinaigrette. I would have liked a Red Wine Vinaigrette and I realize I could have made a homemade one, but I didn't want to and I couldn't find one in a bottle (which surprised me) so I went with the balsamic - I feel like that's pretty much fail-proof in a pinch.

I think the above salad would feed about 5-10 people depending on how large the portions were. And I just eye-balled the amounts for the ingredients. I kept adding until it "looked right" in proportion to the amount of lettuce. So scientific.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Cranberry-Blueberry-White Chocolate Chip-Oatmeal Scones!

I don't know how this kind of stuff happens. I went to the grocery store to buy dried cherries and dried apricots to eat in my oatmeal. I came home with dried blueberries and dried cranberries.

The cranberries were an accident, I thought I was buying cherries and it wasn't until I got home, opened them, and ate one that I realized I had, in fact, purchases cranberries. I love fresh cranberries in my baked goods, but for some reason I don't like dried cranberries by themselves. Not sure why. The blueberries were an impulse buy because I had never seen dried blueberries at the grocery store. I decided I would try them instead of apricots. I wish I had gotten apricots.

But trying to be a good sport and not waste money or food I agreeably made a bowl of oatmeal with brown sugar, dried cranberries, and dried blueberries. It looked so pretty...but I couldn't finish it. Ick.

However, another day I tried the oatmeal with just the blueberries and it was good, so that just left the cranberries. What to do with them???

I briefly planned on making oatmeal cookies with cranberries and white chocolate chips and taking them to work. But then I went to Starbucks, had a blueberry scone, and remembered how much I prefer scones to cookies. Oh, how I love a scone!

So, I found a recipe for cranberry oatmeal scones and decided to adapt that to Cranberry-Blueberry-White Chocolate Chip-Oatmeal Scones. A mouth-full in ever sense of the phrase!

My verdict? Well, I just made them today, but they don't have the texture I really like a scone to have....they might be better when they're a day old...? That's not to say they're not tasty though - they are! I think they have just the right amount of cranberries, blueberries, white chocolate chips, and oatmeal. I was concerned about one or more of those flavors overpowering the scones, but they didn't.

Overall a good use of unintended purchase. And oatmeal makes anything healthy, correct? Correct. Delicious with coffee...but what isn't? :)

Cranberry-Blueberry-White Chocolate Chip-Oatmeal Scones
Adapted from Joy of Baking

1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 stick unsalted butter, cold and cut up into small pieces
3/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick cooking instant - this is muy importante)
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup dried blueberries
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
2/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the egg wash:
1 egg
1 Tablespoon milk

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or spray with nonstick spray.

In a mixing bowl combine flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and baking soda and stir with a whisk. Cut in the cold, unsalted butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until the mixture reveals coarse crumbs (I'm not going to lie, if you use the 2 knives method, this is tedious).

Add the oatmeal, cranberries, blueberries, and white chocolate chips and stir well. Add the milk and vanilla and stir just until combined. Knead the dough 4-5 times.

Form the dough into an approximately 7 inch circle that is about 1 1/2 inches thick. Cut into 8 triangles. Whisk together the egg and milk to make the egg wash. Brush each scone with the egg wash.

Bake the scones on the baking pan for 15-18 minutes. Mine almost doubled in sizes, so what went from appearing to be modest little scones turned into giant, coffee-shop-worthy scones! I was pleased. Let them cool a little and then eat them up!

Makes 8 tasty scones.

Do you like my blueberry plate? Another fabulous Portland thrift-shop find!

Friday, January 21, 2011

S'More Cake!

OK, that's not the official name of this Cake Slice Bakers Cake of the Month Cake; it's really something like: Graham Cracker Chocolate Chip Snacking Cake. Whatever. It's S'More Cake! Although...it's not all the s'more-ish to me. I love s'mores and this was fairly good, but I think it could have been better. Or maybe my expectations were too high.

Also, these pictures are the ugliest pictures of food you'll ever see because:
a) I live in Portland, Oregon and rarely see the sun
b) Even if the sun did exist in Portland, when I leave for work and when I come home from work, it is dark

Those are my excuses.

Ever since I moved to Portland I've had this weird thing about my own version of baking more "naturally". I've been using as few appliances as possible, mostly because I don't have them and I don't want to spend money on them. This cake broke me though. In the midst of crumbling graham crackers by hand and creaming butter with sugar until it was "fluffy" with a whisk I decided it was time to buy a cheap hand mixer at least. And I won't lie, some of my graham crackers crumbs were not "fine". I thought about buying a box of graham cracker crumbs, but I couldn't really think of many other times I would use them and wouldn't want them to go to waste so I bought real graham crackers because I know I'll eat those before I'll use crumbs.

So, maybe it was because my graham cracker crumbs weren't the right texture, but I thought this cake had a weird consistency - kind of dry and almost cookie-ish. I used mini chocolate chips because I already had them. I thought the icing was very tasty, but didn't really taste like marshmallows, which was disappointing. I kind of think a 7 Minute Frosting would have gone better on this cake as it always seems marshmallow-y to me. I decorated my cake with lefotover graham cracker crumbs and mini chocolate chips. I thought it turnf out very pretty.

You know what I liked better than this cake? Dipping graham crackers in marshmallow fluff! SO GOOD! And much easier :)
Graham Cracker-Chocolate Chip Snacking Cake
Cake Keeper Cakes
For the Cake:
8 whole graham crackers, finely (or not so finely, use a food processor if you have one) ground (about 1 cup)
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (I think I may have used salted butter for this...I recall checking the recipe several times and wondering why it said unsalted for the icing and salted for the cake...maybe I read it wrong...repeatedly...?)
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

For the Icing:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup marshmallow fluff (sometimes it's called creme...?)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan  (I used round) and dust it with flour, knocking out any extra.

Combine the graham cracker crumbs, flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium mixing bowl.

Combine the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and cream with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Or do this by hand and curse yourself halfway through.

With the mixer on low speed, add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and then beat until smooth. With the mixer on low speed, add 1/3 of the flour mixture, then 1/2 of the milk, stirring until combined. Repeat with the remaining flour and milk, ending with the flour. Stir in the chocolate chips.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 35 minutes (mine was done in about 29, almost too done). Let the cake cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. Invert it onto a wire rack, and then turn it right side up on a rack to cool completely.

without icing
For the icing: Place the butter in a medium mixing bowl and beat until creamy. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the sugar, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Stir in the vanilla and the marshmallow fluff and beat until smooth.

Cut the cake into squares/slices and serve each one with a dollop of frosting on top. However, I iced just the top of my cake and decorated it with the graham cracker crumbs and chocolate chips.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Cranberry Cake

This month's Cake Slice Baker Cake of the Month was a Cranberry Cake and it was delicious! I have felt like a new woman this month because for all of November I was battling some health issues that made life not very enjoyable. I am so, so, so glad and grateful to be feeling like myself again!

I made this cake one evening after work and it was a really fun experience. I still don't have a mixer in Oregon, so I mixed this up all by hand, with a whisk. I'm not sure if that effected the texture of my cake, but it turned out tasting great nonetheless. The recipe called for a 10-inch springform pan, but I went with a shallow, smaller, disposable, rectangular pan, which made my cake thinner and therefore I believe the cranberries were more dense. I happen to really enjoy tart things, but if you are not a fan of tartness, this cake might be too much for you. The actual cake part was very rich and dense and sweet, but the cranberries (I used fresh) were a delightful little punch of  sour goodness.

The only thing I could see do differently for this cake would be add some citrus zest, probably orange. I always think desserts with berries tastes better with citrus. This cake had a really good vanilla flavor and the 3 eggs added a deep richness, but I just think it could have been livened up with some orange. I thought about it when I was mixing this cake up, but I wanted to see what it would taste like if I just followed the recipe. However, I am learning to trust my instincts when it comes to flavors. Usually if I think a little cinnamon or citrus zest would improve the taste, I end up being correct. You can't eat as many sweets as I do and not learn a thing or two about what tastes good together. :)

Cranberry Cake
Cake Keeper Cakes by Lauren Chattman

For the Streusel:
1 cup sliced almonds
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (I used salted butter)
2 Tablespoons brown sugar

For the Cake:
2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
3 eggs
2 cups sugar
1½ sticks butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 bag (12 ounces) fresh cranberries (or I've heard you can use frozen)

Heat the oven to 300 degrees. Grease a 10-inch round springform pan (or pan of your choice).

Combine the melted butter, almonds and brown sugar in a medium bowl. Work the mixture between your fingers to form large crumbs. Refrigerate until ready to use. I could have stopped right here. This tasted so good.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Combine the eggs and granulated sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer on medium high speed until the mixture is lightened and increased in volume, about 5 minutes.

With the mixer on low speed, add the butter in a slow stream. Turn the mixer to medium speed and beat for another 2 minutes. Stir in the vanilla.

Gently but thoroughly fold in the flour mixture, half a cup at a time. Then stir in the cranberries.
Scrape the butter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with a spatula. Sprinkle the streusel over the batter. Bake the cake until it is golden and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean, about 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes.
Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Release the sides of the pan and use a large spatula to slide the cake from the pan bottom onto the wire rack (I just let me cool in the pan and never took it out of the pan). Cool completely before cutting into wedges and serving.

Store uneaten cake in a cake keeper or wrap in plastic and store at room temperature for up to 5 days.